Judge upholds ruling disqualifying former Washington School District employee from benefits

School custodian fired, disqualified from receiving benefits after showing middle school students sexually explicit video

WASHINGTON — After being fired by the Washington Community School District for sharing a sexually explicit video to a group of middle school students, former custodian Cary Wagler attempted to appeal for unemployment insurance benefits from the school district. At a hearing on Aug. 23, an administrative law judge determined that the Washington Community School District did not owe Wagler benefits.

Wagler had been denied benefits due to being disqualified for “misconduct in connection with [his] employment,” as stated in the decision released by the Iowa Workforce Development Unemployment Insurance Appeals Bureau.

According to the document, Wagler was a full-time custodian at the Washington Middle School, where he was employed from Aug. 2017 to May 2019. Wagler was terminated from his position for sharing a video of a woman engaging in “simulated fellatio” on a hot dog. Wagler showed the video to “a pair of girls and to a group of boys,” in the school’s cafeteria, and subsequently asked the girls “Can you do that?” In addition to the students who were shown the video, several students in the vicinity became aware of Wagler’s actions.

The middle school’s principal, Curt Mayer, was alerted to the incident after a female student told her mother about what had transpired with Wagler. Wagler was placed on administrative leave on April 25 as the incident was reviewed. An investigation into the incident included written statements provided by eight students who were directly shown the video by Wagler or were in the vicinity as the incident transpired.

The decision states that the students “were sufficiently consistent to establish that Mr. Wagler had indeed shared the video” and “that each affective student readily interpreted the video as sexual suggestive.”

Wagler also admitted to having shown the video and was able to provide the source of the video, as well as “conceded that he may have made the ‘Can you do that?’ comment.” Following the investigation, Wagler’s employment was terminated on May 6.

The decision provided by the administrative law judge dictates that Wagler “was discharged for misconduct in connection with the employment. Mr. Wagler demonstrated a willful and wanton disregard for the employer’s interest by sharing a sexually suggestive video with several middle school students,” which disqualifies him for benefits in accordance with Iowa Code section 96.5(2) a. In accordance with the code, Wagler’s disqualification will continue until he has “worked in and has been paid wages for insured work equal to ten times” his weekly benefit amount.

Washington Community School District Superintendent Willie Stone said the district “had no comment” on the issue.

“We followed procedure. It was a personnel issue,” Stone concluded.